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Great Lakes started out as a songwriting/recording project of Dan Donahue, Ben Crum, and Jamey Huggins. Dan and Ben met in high school and started writing songs together. Jamey joined in soon after. The band played their first live shows in 1996.

They currently play as a three-piece band, with Ben on guitar, Kyle Forester on bass, and Kevin Shea on drums. But at times the band's size has swelled to include at least half a dozen other members. Heather McIntosh (Japancakes, The Circulatory System), Dottie Alexander (Of Montreal, Marshmallow Coast, My First Keyboard), Derek Almstead (Of Montreal, Marshmallow Coast), Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal), Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel, Gerbils) and Bryan Poole (The Late B.P. Helium) have recorded and toured with the band.

The song Posters For the Theatre appeared on the compilation Happy Happy Birthday To Me Vol. 1, introducing Great Lakes to an audience outside of Athens for the first time.

April 2000 brought the release of their debut, self-titled album on Kindercore Records. Two years in the making, it had been recorded at home in Athens, Georgia and mixed and mastered in Denver, Colorado with Robert Schneider (Apples in Stereo, Marbles) at Pet Sounds Studio. The album features several contributors including Scott Spillane (Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils), Dottie Alexander ( Of Montreal, Marshmallow Coast, My First Keyboard), Derek Almstead (Of Montreal, Marshmallow Coast), Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal), Andrew Rieger (Elf Power), and Adrian Finch (Elf Power, Dances With Wolves, Masters of the Hemisphere).

Not too long after the release of the CD, they released a 7" as part of the Happy Happy Birthday to Me singles club. It features 4 non-album tracks.

The Kindercore singles club released a split single with Elf Power in the summer of 2000. Great Lakes cover the Zombie's song This will be our Year.

A CD single for Come Storming was released on the now defunct La Suprette label in the UK in February 2001. It also featured the songs No More Conquistadors, Bead by Bead, Tugboat Sailor, The Morning of my Life, and This will be Our Year. These songs were all also found on the HHBTM and Kindercore singles except The Morning of my Life which is a previously unreleased Bee Gees cover.

Sister City 7" was released in December 2001 on Hype City Records. It features 2 previously unreleased songs. And in January 2002 a 7" single of A Little Touched was released on the UK label Track & Field Organisation.

An album entitled The Distance Between was released on Orange Twin in the US in August 2002 and in the UK on Track & Field Organisation in September 2002.

Their third and latest album, entitled Diamond Times, was released in 2006 in the USA by Empyrean Records, and in 2007 in Europe by The Track & Field Organisation.

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